Since I have been sampling social media, I have learned a number of things. First, it’s important to be aware of the source of any information that you may come across on social media platforms. As a former journalist, I was trained to always be balanced in my reporting – this rule does not apply in the social media world.
Politicians and political parties are frequent users of Twitter to push an agenda, shape public policy or generate discussion on a particular subject. Whatever you views are on the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Justin Trudeau certainly did an effective job of starting a sustained conversation in Canada on this topic recently with a number of SM interventions.
In other cases, SM content might be an outright lie or a hoax. For some goods examples of this, check out http://tinyurl.com/o3nsabl.
I recall one wag saying that social media is the talk radio of the Internet – many people engage without any particular knowledge on a subject. Consumers beware!
Fact checking is often a casualty of the need to communicate quickly. In the rush to be first, even respectable media outlets have been caught with their pants down – dozens of news organizations jumped all over a Tweet that originated in Ottawa in 2010 and reported that Gordon Lightfoot had passed away (See http://tinyurl.com/pkt5gh8). Not true (although many of those who saw him recently at the Ottawa Folkfest might wonder. But I digress).
It’s important to be critical in assessing SM content to determine its veracity, and to understand what the author’s intent was – to inform, misinform, create public discussion, or that perennial favourite, engage in a little bit of mischief.
Finally, don’t post anything on social media that you don’t want the world to see – even if you just have a handful of friends, as British PM David Cameron’s sister-in-law learned earlier this month (http://tinyurl.com/pktjm7u).